Managing Stress In The New Dental Normal

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but when we control it, instead of the other way around, we feel better and have better life outcomes.

Having seen patients this week and understanding what working in today’s dentist offices requires, I felt compelled to sit down and write to my dental community friends and colleagues who may not be feeling so positive. 

Did you know that 80% of all the thoughts we have are negative. Yes, you read that right, 80% of the thousands of thoughts we have every day are not positive ones. And, of course with Covid-19 as our new everyday reality that percentage is even higher now. So, how is it that some people seem to be able to at least appear more positive than others? Are they superhuman? Faking it? Blissfully ignorant? Nope. The majority have intentionally adopted a positive mindset in spite of today’s news, their social feeds and our new reality, because they know that those with positive mindsets are more successful, attract other positive people and, most importantly, better manage stress and anxiety. 

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but when we control it, instead of the other way around, we feel better and have better life outcomes. And we can control it. 

Why do we need to get control of our stress? 

  1. To maintain our mental health and energy!

    Continued, sustained stress can lead to depression, loss of libido, general fatigue, and fractured relationships. Having taken on more at work and at home lately requires even more of our energy.  
  2. To be better for everyone around us.

    Negativity is as contagious as the most contagious virus. If you can’t maintain a positive attitude, at least don’t make it harder for those around you who are positive or trying to be by sharing negativity. When we model positive thinking, we set an expectation and good example for those we live and work with. 
  3. To live more fulfilling lives today and in the future.

    We’re working on our long game. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Like anything else, it’s a practice. The more we do it, the better we become. So in this case, “faking it til you make it” actually works. 
  4. To protect our immunity!

    When we release negative thoughts from our minds, our bodies physically let stress go, too. This is often referred to as the mind-body connection. It means that our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes can positively or negatively affect our biological functioning. 

    The mind-body connection is very powerful. Research has shown that our thoughts can directly impact your immune system. People who are optimistic about an important, specific part of their lives, exhibit a stronger immune response than those who have predominantly negative views. When we’re stressed, our immune system’s ability to fight antigens is reduced. Additionally, the stress hormone corticosteroid can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system, lowering our lymphocytes and making those with high anxiety more susceptible to viral infections.  

Ways To Better Manage Stress 

Being intentional about what we choose to engage and invest in alters our relationship to stress. Does that mean that by doing the things mentioned below that we will be stress-free? Sadly, no. But it does mean we can keep it from getting the best of us. 

1. Solitude

Find time to be alone with your thoughts. Whether in the morning, when you can set an intention for the day or at the end of the day to create a space for processing the happenings of your day–both the good and the bad, make time to do it.

2. Make time for music.

Our souls are wired for song. Music is evocative. We can emote through music and use it to conjure good thoughts through good memories of certain songs or just in the nature of the song itself. Whether it’s an orderly, classical piece that soothes the chaos in our mind or a thrashing rock song that releases angst and frustration, music can work it out for us without even having to think about it.

3. Meditation.

relieving stress through meditation

If you’re high energy, this can sound like torture or, at a minimum, seem impossible to do. But the beauty is there is no “wrong” in meditation. It’s just about sitting, being, and watching your thoughts go by. However, if you keep doing it, eventually it becomes an effective tool in calming your mind. It literally alters your brain waves giving you a sense of deeper relaxation and serenity. I was so bummed when we had to cancel Dental Impact and miss out on TedX speaker and Meditation and Mindfulness expert, Jennifer Grace. But you can watch her here and also do her Free Meet Your Future Self Meditation

4. Exercise.

This is a no-brainer. Check out this video by my friend, DMD Doctor of Dental Medicine and wellness expert, Dr. Uche Odiatu on exercise and how it affects our immunity. Additionally, exercise releases endorphins, a natural pain-reliever, and gives us better quality and deeper sleep.

5. Take it outside.

When we spend time in nature, anxiety takes a backseat. We see our humanity and how connected we are to the wider world. The squirrels and birds know nothing of Covid-19. Spending enough time in their world allows us to forget it, too.

6. Take stock in the good.

Seek out the good news. Appreciate what you perhaps took for granted before. Then, make gratitude your attitude. There is a reason our most popular section of our Covid-19 Info Hub is the good news section: (N20) Nitrous News: Smiling Through The Discomfort. It’s worth bookmarking the site, just for that. 

7. Get a full 8.

Speaking of gratitude, there is a growing body of research that has confirmed a direct link between gratitude and improved sleep, lowered stress levels, and improved personal relationships. So, write a list of whomever and whatever you are grateful for having in your life, and enjoy those deep zzz’s that come with it!

8. Find joy in the small things.

It’s often a series of setbacks or frustrations that cause the most anxiety and not one big thing. Likewise, paying attention to the small things and being grateful for them can have a good residual effect––a ripe summer tomato, the laughter of your child, a fresh haircut, finding a new show to binge on Netflix, a flower blooming in your yard, your pet doing something funny. Look for the good. It’s there!

9. Take back your thoughts.

be mindful of your thoughts to manage stress

Be mindful of the thoughts that invade your head. It’s ok to have a bad thought, but don’t dwell in them. If you can’t change something, use that magnificent brain of yours to get creative, take action, or ask others for support and advice. Pessimists give in and give up believing they can’t change it. You can’t make the negative thoughts stop, but you can acknowledge them and let them go, allowing them no power. 

Don’t put yourself through stress twice. 

Have you ever heard the saying, “If you stress too much about something before it happens, you just put yourself through it twice.”? It’s true. You’ve physically and emotionally allowed yourself to double your discomfort and emotional toll. So be kinder to yourself. Always remember how quickly things can change. Nothing is final. Even your current emotions or situations are temporary. Stay spiritually and mentally strong. Brighter days will come for us all. Take care! 

January 20, 2021